By Eva Cohen
All over the news: Twitter’s IPO, Snapchat turns down Facebook. Does it leave anyone feeling as though the technology sector could focus on something more important? Something that helps move society forward, instead of bogging us all down with over-sharing and a glut of useless information?
To some, such as Vivek Wadwha, the future is bright. He says the real story is advancements in the technology sector, and that he genuinely sees these advancements coming to the forefront of our consciousness. What he has to say is really compelling and I hope he’s right!
“There will be another two or three Snapchats in the next year which will make this one obsolete,” Wadwha says. “The current crop of social media companies with ridiculous evaluations—many will be toast. It’s a rigged system, you have Silicon Valley colluding with New York investment bankers and driving up the price of these companies to insane evaluations. Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, yes they have a lot of potential right now but in the future they will just be features in products everywhere.”
Last month Wadwha, a technology entrepreneur and academic with such titles as vice president of academics and innovation at Singularity University, co-hosted Level the Coding Field Hackathon where 125 low-income youth from under-represented groups in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) from the Oakland, California area became developers of technology. The students built a mobile app to address their community challenges.
What is the key factor that will allow thousands, millions of youth in the future to also have access to technology in order to contribute like these youth did in Oakland? Wadwha says a key trend in technology that will hit all facets of M&A activity and has been vastly overlooked is the rapid evolution of tablet computers. While we have seen the price drop slightly over the last few years, new Apple products still run at around $800 and Samsung is only slightly cheaper.
Wadwha says we need to look outside of the mainstream brands and take a look at companies such as Datawind, a London-based technology company creating computers that cost less than $60, which are right now being sold in India. Datawind would be a great acquisition for a company that wants to dominate the emerging tablet market, he says.
“I see the decimation of companies such as Dell, Lenovo, and Acer,” Wadwha envisioned. “With the prices of these technologies dropping, there won’t be one hardware manufacturer—there will be many.”
While he sees tablet computer companies falling off the map, Wadwha noted that Google and the larger players “will continue to lead [M&A] because they have the money and the need to survive.” They will make smart acquisitions and invest in the emerging technologies, he says.
He went on to say that Facebook may have a billion users, but that can’t be monetized, Twitter is stagnant, and Snapchat is “a good feature for kids who want to maintain privacy and do silly things.”
The startup arena is an area to keep an eye on especially in emerging markets like China and India, he says. There will be an internet boom in these two developing countries that will dwarf what happened in the US when the internet became widely accessible. Kakao Talk, Viber, WeChat, Weibo, or WhatsApp are just a few that one might find on any given cellphone user’s App list in Hong Kong, China, Korea or Japan.
Healthcare technology, digital and other online tech companies in emerging markets will eventually see valuations of USD 100m to USD 1bn popping up en masse, he says.
In my mind I picture millions of little backhoe loaders and excavators zooming around in the sky, mining this seemingly endless information sphere. It seems that very soon, at our fingertips, there will literally, not figuratively, be millions of real people with real ideas contributing to the information marketplace. That sounds like a marvelous situation to all of those who are Facebooked out.
Eva Cohen is an energy and industrials reporter for Mergermarket based in New York. She also manages a blog with photos and stories predominately from East Asia.